News Roundup for December 11, 2019

December 11, 2019

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J Street in the News

Trump Targets Anti-Semitism and Israeli Boycotts on College Campuses, New York Times
“President Trump plans to sign an executive order on Wednesday targeting what he sees as anti-Semitism on college campuses by threatening to withhold federal money from educational institutions that fail to combat discrimination, three administration officials said on Tuesday. The order will effectively interpret Judaism as a race or nationality, not just a religion, to prompt a federal law penalizing colleges and universities deemed to be shirking their responsibility to foster an open climate for minority students. In recent years, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions — or B.D.S. — movement against Israel has roiled some campuses, leaving some Jewish students feeling unwelcome or attacked […] Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a liberal Israel advocacy group, said the president’s order was a cynical effort to crack down on critics, not to defend Jews from bias. ‘It is particularly outrageous and absurd for President Trump to pretend to care about anti-Semitism during the same week in which he once again publicly spouted anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money,’ he said in a statement.”

Trump expected to sign order to foster probes of anti-Semitism on campus, The Washington Post
“Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of lobbying organization J Street — another left-leaning group that focuses on issues related to Israel — said the order would not truly address anti-Semitism. ‘This executive order, like the stalled congressional legislation it is based on, appears designed less to combat anti-Semitism than to have a chilling effect on free speech and to crack down on campus critics of Israel,’ Ben-Ami said in a statement.”

Trump to sign order penalizing colleges over perceived anti-Semitism on campus: report, The Hill
“It also comes as Trump himself has been criticized for comments suggesting Jewish Americans owe Israel their loyalty, saying in a recent speech to the Israeli-American Council ‘you have people that are Jewish people, that are great people — they don’t love Israel enough.’ The speech was condemned by left-leaning Jewish organizations, with the advocacy group J Street tweeting that Trump was ‘incapable of addressing Jewish audiences without dipping into the deep well of anti-Semitic tropes that shape his worldview.’”

‘Disturbing’: Jewish Groups Slam Joe diGenova’s Return to Fox After Anti-Semitic Remarks, The Daily Beast
“Conservative lawyers Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, two of President Donald Trump’s fiercest and most loyal TV defenders, returned Monday night to Fox airwaves—less than a month after diGenova sparked intense backlash from Jewish organizations by spewing anti-Semitic tropes during a Fox Business interview. […] ’Clearly Fox News feels no remorse about continuing to feature white nationalist and anti-Semitic rhetoric on their network, and no real concern about the dangerous consequences of the hateful conspiracy theories that they’re helping to spread,’ a spokesperson for liberal Jewish group J Street told The Daily Beast.”

Jewish Groups Accuse Trump of Anti-Semitism over ‘Horrifying’ Plan to Define Judaism as a Nationality, Newsweek
“The liberal J Street group also condemned the reported executive order, with its President Jeremy Ben-Ami suggesting the move was about shutting down legitimate opposition to the White House and its far-right Israeli allies. ‘We feel it is misguided and harmful for the White House to unilaterally declare a broad range of nonviolent campus criticism of Israel to be anti-Semitic, especially at a time when the prime driver of anti-Semitism in this country is the xenophobic, white nationalist far-right,’ Ben-Ami said in a statement. ‘It is particularly outrageous and absurd for President Trump to pretend to care about anti-Semitism during the same week in which he once again publicly spouted anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money,’ he continued.”

Trump expected to issue executive order against antisemitism on campus, The Jerusalem Post
“[J Street’s President Jeremy Ben-Ami] explained that the expert who drafted the definition of antisemitism that is being adopted by this executive order, Kenneth S. Stern, has opposed its application on college campuses. Stern wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times that, ‘If this bill becomes law…students and faculty members will be scared into silence, and administrators will err on the side of suppressing or censuring speech.’”

Trump’s Executive Order Is a Cynical, Harmful Measure Designed to Suppress Free Speech on College Campuses, Not Fight Anti-Semitism, J Street
“This executive order, like the stalled congressional legislation it is based on, appears designed less to combat anti-Semitism than to have a chilling effect on free speech and to crack down on campus critics of Israel.”

Top News and Analysis

Third Election Looms in Israel as Netanyahu Clings to Office, New York Times
Israel appears headed to a record third straight election as a midnight deadline approaches on Wednesday with neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his chief rival, Benny Gantz, edging back from the brinkmanship that has kept the country’s future on hold for nearly a year. Barring an 11th-hour surprise, Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Gantz, a former army chief who leads the centrist Blue and White party, will try again for a more decisive outcome in another parliamentary election on March 2. Votes in April and September ended in deadlock.

Jersey City shootings: Kosher market where 3 were killed was targeted by gunmen, mayor says,
The gunmen who killed three people at a kosher supermarket after fatally shooting a police officer in Jersey City on Tuesday “targeted the location they attacked,” Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop said late Tuesday. “Based on our initial investigation (which is ongoing) we now believe the active shooters targeted the location they attacked,” the mayor said on Twitter late Tuesday. “Due to an excess of caution the community may see additional police resources in the days/weeks ahead. We have no indication there are any further threats.” Fulop’s tweet did not say if investigators believe the shooting was an anti-Semitic hate crime.

New Jersey kosher supermarket shooting rattles tight-knit Jewish community, JTA
It was an ordeal that disturbed the heart of a small Orthodox Jewish community of nearly 100 families, most of whom moved from the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn over the past few years. According to locals, the JC supermarket is the only kosher one of its kind in the area. It serves basic groceries, sandwiches and salads. Next door is Khal Adas Greenville, a building with a synagogue on a lower level and a yeshiva for children on the upper level. “It’s a beautiful tight-knit community, very kind people, and it’s devastating that something like this happened,” said Rabbi Shmully Levitin, a Chabad rabbi who lives in this city across the Hudson River from New York.


EU to debate Mideast policy as 2-state solution hopes fade, AP
European Union foreign ministers will discuss next month whether the 28-nation bloc should modify its Middle East policy amid growing concern that Israeli settlement activity and U.S. diplomatic moves are undermining hopes for a two-state solution.

Bill to disperse Knesset, set new elections for March 2, filed in Knesset, Times of Israel
A bill for new elections was presented in the Knesset Tuesday by lawmakers from both major parties, Likud and Blue and White, signaling an ignominious end to the short-lived 22nd Knesset.

24 Hours to Deadline, Kahol Lavan Surges in Election Poll as Gantz, Netanyahu Trade Barbs, Haaretz
As Israeli politicians face a Wednesday midnight deadline to prevent a third election cycle within a year, a public opinion poll published Tuesday gives Benny Gantz and his Kahol Lavan party a significant lead over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.

Gantz: Israel going to 3rd elections because Netanyahu wants immunity, Times of Israel
With just hours remaining until the Knesset likely calls Israel’s 3rd elections within a year, Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz on Wednesday said that the country was only facing another vote because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking immunity from prosecution.

Trump’s plan to sign antisemitism order raises fears it could stifle Israel criticism, The Guardian
The move has drawn criticism from those who worry that such a characterization of Judaism as a race or nation is itself antisemitic. Free-speech advocates also have concerns that a broader definition of antisemitism might be used to limit criticism of Israeli government actions.

Palestinians Ask Israel to Let East Jerusalem Residents Vote in PA Election, Haaretz
The Palestinian Authority asked Israel on Tuesday to allow East Jerusalem residents to vote in the PA’s planned parliamentary and presidential elections, a request that Israeli officials said would now go to the security cabinet.

Opinion and Analysis

When the Settlement Bloc Expands, Haaretz
Amira Hass writes, “Every settlement and settlement outpost in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem and in Hebron, constantly expands its boundaries at the expense of the Palestinian space, forcing the Palestinians into territorial pockets that are increasingly shrinking.”

Will Israel’s right-wing camp lose its leader soon?, Al-Monitor
Mazal Mualem writes, “Netanyahu is preparing for a tough fight within the Likud against his rival, former Minister Gideon Saar. He is certainly aware of the people on the right and in the religious Zionist camp arguing that, given the current circumstances, there is no choice but to replace him in order to save ‘right-wing rule.’”

We Thought the Israeli Public Should Know About the Occupation. How Wrong Were We, Haaretz
Zehava Galon writes, “B’Tselem was established as a response to a question that is still tearing the Israeli public apart: What should you do when your country commits an injustice. Not a random injustice, not a mistake, not a blind bureaucratic decision, but an ongoing, deliberate policy that treats human beings like something to be trampled. The answer that people give to this question shows a lot about them. There are some who remain silent, there are some who convince themselves that everything is all right, there are some who explain that we have to fight, but not now and certainly not abroad. And then there is B’Tselem.”